“I feel like I am actually giving back and doing something worth my summer,” Elijah said. “Every single summer I’ve done stuff for me, and now it feels like I’m actually doing something and helping people be heard.”
Elijah said he hopes to finish his film by 2018.
Also in August, Emory orchestrated two meetings to encourage Spanish speakers to voice their opinions on local political issues.
The first meeting focused on health care and occurred on August 14 at the East Boston branch of the Boston Public Library, with a representative from the Boston Health Commission—a public agency that provides health services in the area—and a representative from the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center, a local neighborhood clinic, making up the panel.
The four-person turnout at his first meeting was much lower than he’d expected, but the intimate atmosphere allowed the attendees to leave armed with information about obtaining health care for special needs children—one woman there had a child with a disability—regaining coverage that had been lost, and acquiring care as undocumented immigrants, he said.
“There wasn’t any kind of barrier between representatives and the people coming. They asked lots of questions and walked away really, really informed, so I was incredibly happy,” Emory said.
The second meeting, held on August 16 in the Egleston Branch of the Boston Public Library, was set to be a question-and-answer session with City Councilor and Boston mayoral candidate Tito Jackson, but he canceled at the last minute. To replace him, Emory secured Luz Villar, a representative from City Councilor Ayanna Pressley’s office, and community organizer Maria Christina Blanco, both of whom have experience with Spanish-speaking immigrants.
Emory advertised the meeting on two Facebook pages, through a website he created, and with flyers he posted around the neighborhood, but no immigrants showed up. Instead, Emory said Ms. Blanco gave him tips on how to attract more attendees, suggesting he partner with an established organization that has more communication with the immigrant community and use Spanish newspapers like El Mundo Boston.
Ms. Villar also offered to connect Emory with other city councilors and work with him to refine project plans as he pursues it later in the year.
“The project was not a failure but more of a test run,” Emory reported. “Community organizing is really hard, and what I’ve learned is that civic engagement with immigrants is ten times harder. This has been a huge learning experience, and I am incredibly grateful for that.”
The Marina Keegan ’08 Summer Fellowship annually honors the late alumna by awarding two to three students up to $2500 each to pursue a project reflecting her artistic and activist spirit.